Even elections now appear to be more an exercise in demagogy and deception than democracy. The National Bhikku Organisation, like so many other independent civic action movements, lamented recently the next month’s provincial elections, instead of being conducted in a free and fair manner by the Elections Commissioner assisted by the Police Department, were being manipulated by the ruling UPFA.The bhikku front lamented this was a dangerous trend in the overall breakdown of law and order with people losing confidence in the Police Department which was being forced to act in favour of the ruling alliance.
Last week angry crowds attacked the Tambuttegama Police Station after a young mother was killed in a road accident. The crowds carrying the coffin of the victim smashed the police station claiming the suspected killer-driver had been released on bail because the police had not provided adequate information to Court.
During the past few months or years, there have been an increasing number of cases of people protesting sometimes violently over police action or inaction. The root causes appear to be the gradual militarisation or party politicisation of the police service. Government leaders and others including criminal elements appear to have taken control of the police force, so much so that many people fear to go to a police station and do not consider the police as their friends.
The party politicisation of the police force began after the dismantling of the Independent Police Commission, which was set up under the 17th Amendment to the constitution. An all-party constitutional council appointed the Independent Police Commission and the President ratified it. But the 17th Amendment, considered to be one of the most progressive pieces of legislation after the 1978 constitution, was scrapped and instead the dictatorial 18th Amendment was approved by Parliament where the UPFA has a two-thirds majority and often acts like a lap dog. Now the executive President who has absolute powers appoints the Police Commission and its role is confined to hearing complaints against the police. As usual little or no action is taken and most people believe there is little purpose in going to the Police Commission.
Political and social analysts warn that if the break-down of law and order is not checked and if public confidence in the police service is not restored, Sri Lanka could plunge towards anarchy.
Several Bhikku movements and other civic rights groups, have proposed that the 17th Amendment should be reactivated, the Right to Information Bill be enacted and that even the executive-presidential system be scrapped to restore democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
But instead of openness and a willingness to come to an accommodation, what we see to a large extent in the government is arrogance and arbitrariness – dangerous signs of the deadliest sin of pride that goes before a mighty fall.